Although most of Italians don't go to the Cinque Terre, because it is full of tourists, but I would say it is a must visit for people visiting Italy in the summer.
It's very simple to get from Milan to Cinque Terre with train:
- Train from Milan to Monterosso (In Italian it's Monterosso al Mare):
- Monterosso is the 1st town of the 5, as in it's the closest one from Milan and it actually has an large beach - just right outside of the station
- Trains runs daily, takes a little less than 3 hours if it's direct, some don't have assigned seats so just sit anywhere, it will say on your ticket
- €15-30 one way for direct train
- Train from Milan to La Spezia:
- La Spezia is the major station after Riomaggiore, a lot of people go directly there as it's easier to find accommodation there and will be cheaper than staying inside the 5 towns
- There are also direct trains from Milan which takes just a little over 3 hours, sometimes it will stop inside the towns, sometimes not, depends on which train it is
- Train from Milan to the other 4 towns (Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore)
- There are no direct trains, you will have to transfer in Levanto, Sestri Levante, Genova, or La Spezia, etc - depends on which train you buy for
- Or you can take a direct train to Monterosso then switch to the regional trains (during tourist season they are called "Cinque Terre Express" and are more expensive) that goes in between the 5 towns
- You should always buy your train tickets in advance online or at the station - especially during peak season (June - August) as they will sell out fast
- You can also drive from Milan to Cinque Terre, however not to one of the 5 towns, Monterosso maybe but parking will be a nightmare. I would drive to La Spezia then train to the towns.
- However, if you stick to the highway and not take wrong exits, you should be fine, but if you do, it's very tricky to go backwards so GPS normally reroute you to little roads in the mountains, it's beautiful but very narrow and winey, so if you are not an experienced driver I would suggest to just take the train!